Grass not always greener for transfers

LOST: Gaston (l.) and Bernard (r.) at Xavier.

CARL LUT WILLIAMS
BCSP Editor

At least 12 all-MEAC basketball players or all-MEAC
caliber talents have transferred out of the conference in the last
four years.
Former Norfolk State 6-8 forward Rashid Gaston and
former Florida A&M 6-6 left-handed guard Malcom Bernard
left the Spartans and Rattlers respectively over the last
two years to play their final seasons at Xavier of the Big East.

“I wanted to have the chance to go to the NCAA tournament,”
Bernard said on Cincinnati.com of his move last year,
similar to what Gaston expressed while leaving NSU two seasons
ago. “I wanted to win a lot of games and be successful,”
Bernard said. “I thought if I transferred, I would be able to do
something bigger somewhere else.”

That’s not necessarily been the case.

At NSU in the 2014-15 season, Gaston averaged a near
double-double of 15.5 points and 9.6 boards per game on a 20-
14 team. Bernard left an 8-21 Florida A&M team after averaging
14.1 points and 7.1 rebounds a year ago. At Xavier, playing
on much more talented squads, neither has approached those
numbers.

Gaston averaged 7.4 points and team-bests of 5.9 rebounds
and 0.5 blocks for the 24-14 Musketeers this season, just above
Bernard’s 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds. Bernard started 35 of 38
games. Gaston started 18. Bernard averaged over 28 minutes
per game, Gaston 20.

Both had their moments.

Gaston led Xavier in rebounding in 11 games and had his
best outing in a 23-point, 10-rebound effort in a loss to Villanova
on Feb. 11. He followed that up with a 19-point, 14-rebound
performance in a loss to Providence four days later.

Bernard had perhaps his best game in a battle against Arizona
in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. He scored 15 points
and pulled down six rebounds in a 73-71 Musketeers win over
the second-seeded Wildcats that advanced Xavier to the Elite
Eight. Both Gaston and Bernard had five points in a 83-59 loss
to eventual national runner-up Gonzaga that ended their season.

As for exposure, reaching the Elite Eight at Xavier is certainly
bigger than 17-17 Norfolk State’s run to the MEAC Tournament
finals and a first round appearance in the CollegeInsider.
com postseason tournament or FAMU’s 8-21 finish.

Sterling Smith, an all-MEAC guard at Coppin State,
wound up as a starter at Pittsburgh in the ACC in the 2015-
16 season. Richaud Pack, a 17-point scorer and another all-
MEAC player at North Carolina A&T in 2014, ended up as an
occasional starter on Maryland’s Big 10 squad a year ago.

Smith, after averaging 13.1 points and 30 minutes a game at Coppin,
averaged just 4.3 points and 17 minutes for the Panthers last season.
Pack’s 17 points and 34 minutes per game at A&T turned into 5.8
points and 25 minutes a night for the 2015-16 Terps.

“I was stunned and disappointed,” said Cy Alexander, then
Pack’s coach at A&T of his decision to transfer. “He was projected to
be our leading scorer coming back. When he decided to leave at the
late date that he did, it was impossible to recruit someone of his skill
and athletic ability to replace him. It was an obstacle we could not
overcome.”

Alexander said Pack wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament
and figured that Maryland, in a multiple-bid league like the Big 10,
had a better chance than A&T in the one-bid MEAC.

Alexander said Pack indicated that it didn’t matter if he didn’t
play at a place like Maryland.

HU TO HU: From Hampton and MEAC Tourney MVP to Hofstra.

Perhaps it’s the old adage of, ‘I’d rather be a little fish in a big
pond than a big fish in a little pond.’ Okay, but does that make sense?

Deron Powers of Hampton bolted the Pirates after they won the
2015 MEAC Tournament title and he was named the tourney’s Most
Valuable Player. He led the Pirates into a first round NCAA Tournament
matchup with top-seed Kentucky. Powers, a 5-11 former MEAC
rookie of the year who had scored 1,080 points and handed 385 assists
in his three years at Hampton, would have been the top returning
point guard in the MEAC. He scored 10 points and handed out 3.7
assists per game and was among the league leaders playing over 32
minutes per game in his final season with the Pirates.

He took up residence at Hofstra University of the Colonial Athletic
Association, another one-bid league, and after sitting out last
season played his final year of eligibility for the Pride. Powers is one
of the few whose numbers have gone up since transferring. He scored
13.0 points and dished out 5.2 assists per game for the 15-17 Pride in
just about the same number of minutes.

Powers told a newspaper at the time of his transferring that one
of his reasons for the move was “the vibe I got up there when I went to
visit, how seriously they take basketball.” He was also quoted saying
he wanted to go to a “better program” in a “better setting.”

Seriously?

Let’s see. Hofstra drew 2,819 to its largest attended home game
this season on Feb. 4 vs. Drexel. By contrast, Hampton drew 3,214 to
its Jan. 25 home date vs. South Carolina State and 4,545 that showed
up for a showdown vs. North Carolina Central on Jan. 16.

Hofstra finished 7-11 in CAA play, good for seventh in the 10-
team CAA. Hampton was 14-17 overall, fourth in the MEAC at 11-5
and played in the College Basketball Invitational postseason tournament.

Powers went from a little pond to a smaller pond.